Nohgaku in Bloomsburg, PA (2014)

August 4, 2014
by Shinichi Iova-Koga

Sitting now in the office of The Field in NYC after an intensive 3 weeks of Nohgaku training in Bloomsburg, PA, where I received instruction in Noh dance, singing, costuming and drumming. I experienced both delight and terror in the process. Not terror exactly. More like… exposed. No skills to hide behind.

(writing continued after/under the photo gallery)

Looking back to 2012. The US/Japan Friendship Commission* funds and supports my studies in Japan. I’m looking at ways traditional arts influenced these avant-garde arts I’ve practiced most of my life. During that summer of 2012, I study Noh costuming, Nihon Buyo, Shakuhachi, Aikido and Kagura. I’m digging, not sure what I’m supposed to find, following my intuition.

The following year, 2013, for one month, I go again to Japan, this time funded by the MAP Fund Creative Exploration Fund Grant**. Again I study Kagura, Aikido, Shakuhachi and add the work of Akira Hino, whose work mixes martial arts with dance. More on that later.

So, desiring to practice these art forms, I look to how to continue practice at home, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shakuhachi, I study with Masayuki Koga. Noh and Kyogen, I do a spring training with Jubilith Moore. Aikido, I practice at Berkeley Aikikai. Kagura belongs to a community and has much to do with a history of place. So, for that, I must return to Tono (in Iwate, in Japan) someday to continue.

Back to Bloomsburg, PA where I’ve just come from. Further steps in Noh dancing, singing, drumming and costuming. When the day ends, it doesn’t end. In the student apartments, the participants practice either in groups or solo to clarify certain pieces or relationships within a piece. There are a few photos here of living room practice that happens either after training or on the “days off.” Memorization takes on importance in this work, which challenges my improvisational based practice. Singing or playing music requires sitting in seiza for long periods of time. The dance likewise follows very prescribed form. And within this restriction, play emerges as I become more familiar with the forms. I find little hints of tiny clues of whispers of Noh.

Thank you Noh Training Project.

I intend to write more, but for now go no further. The documentation from the summer’s of 2012 and 2013 in Japan will see the light of day. Recalling the past helps the lessons come back.

*Thank you US/Japan Friendship commission for starting me out on this path. Especially to Christopher Blasdel and his encouragement to study Shakuhachi.

**Thank you MAP Fund Creative Exploration Fund Grant for taking the chance on me and delivering this present to deepen my studies.

Some have asked me what I will do with this training. I can’t yet say that I have a “plan.” I can say that my body is being informed and changes are already afoot. A little later I can be more articulate about those changes.

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